Vine Video Of Auroras From Space Is Too Hypnotizing For Words

Looks like NASA’s Reid Wiseman is at it again. The prolific social-media-posting astronaut on the International Space Station just put up this Vine video showing auroras shining over Australia. Hard to believe this was captured from Earth orbit.

It seems the astronaut is quite fascinated by these lights, which are produced when particles from the sun move along magnetic field lines around our planet and “excite” molecules high in the atmosphere. Previously, Wiseman posted another Vine video of auroras while constellation Orion rose in the background.

Wiseman is also among those crew members posting pictures of Tropical Storm Arthur and participating in friendly head shave-offs for the World Cup (Wiseman was among those who lost.) And he’s a pretty adept photographer, too.

You can follow the many updates from space on Reid Wiseman’s Twitter feed. He’s just one of six crew members with Expedition 40.

 

Astronauts Shave Their Heads Bald After U.S. Loses FIFA Match To Germany

Lose a soccer game and lose your hair. That’s apparently the deal that American astronauts made on the International Space Station last week, as commander Steve Swanson and Reid Wiseman both were shaved bald after the U.S. lost to Germany 1-0 June 26 in the FIFA World Cup. Gleefully wielding the shaver was Alexander Gerst, who happens to be from Germany.

Despite their busy science schedule, the astronauts have been enthusiastically following (and tweeting about!) the games. Not to mention they did a couple of improvised soccer matches in zero gravity, complete with awesome celebratory dances. You can check out all the video action below.

Stunning Snapshots from Space Courtesy of Reid Wiseman

On May 28 the crew of Expedition 40/41 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, their Soyuz TMA-13M arriving at the International Space Station about eight and a half hours later. And it didn’t take much time for the newly-arrived NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman to start taking photos from his new vantage point in orbit and sharing them on Twitter for the rest of us to enjoy! Here are some of Reid’s latest images from the edge of space, looking down on the beautiful blue world we call home.

One of Reid Wiseman's first few tweets from space
One of Reid Wiseman’s first few tweets from space!
A "beautiful pass over the Falkland Islands" (aka Malvinas) on May 30 with docked Soyuz in the foreground
A “beautiful pass over the Falkland Islands” (aka Islas Malvinas) on May 30 with docked Soyuz in the foreground
Reid confirmed that the Earth is indeed round with a 12mm lens on June 1
Reid confirmed that the Earth is indeed round with a 12mm lens on June 1
Looking down on glacial flows near the Strait of Magellan
Looking down on glacial flows near the Strait of Magellan
Pink clouds at sunset may look beautiful from Earth but "not as pretty here" according to Reid Wiseman
Pink clouds at sunset may look beautiful from Earth but “not as pretty here” according to Reid Wiseman
May 31 was a "nice day to hit the beach" in Santos, Brazil
May 31 was a “nice day to hit the beach” in Santos, Brazil
"Our planet is almost all ocean and so pretty," Tweeted Reid on June 1
“Our planet is almost all ocean and so pretty,” Tweeted Reid on June 1
A "Soyuz selfie" in the cupola with Expedition 40/41 crew members Alexander Gerst, Oleg Artemyev, and Reid Wiseman, shared on June 2
A “Soyuz group selfie” in the cupola with Expedition 40/41 crew members Alexander Gerst, Oleg Artemyev, and Reid Wiseman, shared on June 2
"Chile just left me speechless," Reid tweeted on June 4
“Chile just left me speechless,” Reid tweeted on June 4
"Clouds turn 2D into 3D" tweeted Reid on Thursday, June 5
“Clouds turn 2D into 3D” tweeted Reid on Thursday, June 5
Just a week into his stay aboard the ISS microgravity is already second nature!
Just a week into his stay aboard the ISS microgravity is already second nature!

See these photos (and more as they are taken!) on Reid Wiseman’s Twitter feed, and learn more about Expedition 40 here.

Photos courtesy Reid Wiseman/NASA.

Launch Alert! Watch Live As Three People Rocket To Space Today

In a few hours, you’ll be able to watch three crew members of Expedition 40/41 rocket to space — live from Kazakhstan!

At 3:57 p.m. EDT (7:57 p.m. UTC) a rocket carrying a Soyuz spacecraft is expected to lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying Reid Wiseman (NASA), Alexander Gerst (ESA) and Maxim Suraev (Roscosmos). Full schedule details are below.

NASA TV will turn on the cameras at 3 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. UTC) and stay on the crew until after they make it to orbit. If all goes to plan, NASA TV will then resume coverage at 9 p.m. EDT (1 p.m. UTC) for docking to the International Space Station 48 minutes later.

Next comes the hatch opening. NASA will start coverage at 11 p.m. EDT (3 a.m. UTC) for the opening about 25 minutes later. Greeting the arriving crew members will be the other half of the Expedition 40 crew: Steve Swanson (NASA), Alexander Skvortsov (Roscosmos) and Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos). The incoming crew traditionally participates in a televised chat with their families once they are a little settled in.

Because these are live events, all schedules are subject to change. Make sure to follow the NASA Twitter feed for any adjustments. For example, during the last launch the Soyuz spacecraft failed to make a burn to bring the crew members to the station quickly, making the crew go to a standard backup procedure that brought them to the station about two days later. No one was at risk, NASA said, and the delayed docking happened flawlessly.

By the way, all three crew members are on Twitter: @astro_alex, @astro_reid and @msuraev.

Watch Live As Three People Return From Space Today

It’s time to come home! Expedition 39 astronauts Rick Mastracchio, Koichi Wakata and Mikhail Tyurin will climb into a Russian Soyuz spacecraft later today to make the trip back to Earth from the International Space Station. Much of the activity will play out on NASA TV, which you can watch above. Below are details about when to watch.

These are the descriptions from NASA about when the major events of the day occur. Bear in mind that all of these times are subject to change as circumstances warrant.

3 p.m. EDT / 7 p.m. UTC — Farewells and hatch closure (hatch closure scheduled at 3:15 p.m. / 7:15 p.m. UTC )
6:15 p.m. EDT / 10:15 p.m. UTC — Undocking (undocking scheduled at 6:33 p.m. / 10:33 p.m. UTC)
8:45 p.m. EDT / 12:45 a.m. UTC — Deorbit burn and landing (deorbit burn scheduled at 9:03 p.m. EDT /1:03 a.m. UTC landing scheduled at 9:57 p.m. EDT / 1:57 a.m. UTC)

The crew is expected to land near Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. After doing some quick medical checks on site, the crew will be flown out separately to do more detailed testing at their local medical centers.

With Wakata flying home, the station is now under the command of Expedition 40 NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, who will oversee activities there along with Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev. The rest of the Expedition 40 crew should fly to station May 28, if all goes to plan.

Failed Space Station Computer Spurs Contingency Spacewalk Plans

NASA is preparing a contingency spacewalk to deal with a broken backup computer component on the International Space Station, the agency said in an update Saturday (April 12). While there’s no timeline yet for the spacewalk, the agency must consider carefully when to do it given a cargo ship is supposed to arrive at station on Wednesday.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft — already delayed due to an unrelated radar problem — is still scheduled to launch Monday at 4:58 p.m. EDT (8:58 p.m. UTC) to arrive at station two days later. Although the computer controls some robotic systems, NASA added the Canadarm2 that will grapple Dragon has other redundancies in place. The question is if the station itself has enough redundancy for the launch to go forward.

“A final decision on whether to launch Dragon Monday will not be made until another status meeting is conducted Sunday morning,” NASA stated.

The failure poses no risk to the crew and normal station operations are not affected, NASA emphasized. The failure was uncovered Friday “during a routine health check” of a box called EXT-2, which backs up a primary component that sits outside on the S0 truss (near the station’s center).

Expedition 39 commander Koichi Wakata performs maintenance on the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly on the International Space Station. Picture taken in April 2014. Credit: NASA
Expedition 39 commander Koichi Wakata performs maintenance on the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly on the International Space Station. Picture taken in April 2014. Credit: NASA

Earlier Saturday, a docked Progress robotic spacecraft boosted the station’s altitude in a planned maneuver to ready for the next Soyuz spacecraft launch, which will carry half of the Expedition 40 crew in May.

If spacewalks do go forward, this would be the second required contingency set required since Luca Parmitano experienced a life-threatening leak in a NASA spacesuit last July. NASA ordered an investigation, received a report in February and has halted all nonessential spacewalks while it addresses the recommendations. (Russian spacewalks in Orlan spacesuits are unaffected.)

The only NASA spacewalks that happened since summer took place in December, when an ammonia pump failure crippled science experiments on station. NASA’s Rick Mastracchio and his now returned-to-Earth crewmate Mike Hopkins performed two contingency spacewalks, successfully replacing the pump. The agency has snorkels and absorbent pads ready for its spacesuits as backup if another leak occurs.

You can read the entire NASA update here. We will keep you apprised as circumstances warrant.

The Expedition 39 crew on March 27, 2014 a few hours after the second half of the crew arrived on a Soyuz spacecraft. From left, Steve Swanson (NASA), Koichi Wakata (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Alexander Skvortsov (Roscomos), Rick Mastracchio (NASA), Mikhail Tyurin (Roscomos) and Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos). Credit: NASA (YouTube/screenshot)
The Expedition 39 crew on March 27, 2014 a few hours after the second half of the crew arrived on a Soyuz spacecraft. From left, Steve Swanson (NASA), Koichi Wakata (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Alexander Skvortsov (Roscomos), Rick Mastracchio (NASA), Mikhail Tyurin (Roscomos) and Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos). Credit: NASA (YouTube/screenshot)

Event Alert: Watch Space Station Hatch Opening Live Tonight

Update, 8:33 p.m. EDT: The Soyuz spacecraft arrived safely at station at 7:53 p.m. EDT (11:53 a.m. UTC) and coverage of the hatch opening is scheduled at 10:15 p.m. EDT (2:15 a.m. UTC).

After spending an extra couple of days in the cramped Russian Soyuz spacecraft, the incoming International Space Station crew will likely be very be glad to get out and stretch their legs. You can check out the festivities live in the video link above.

Three people are set to make a docking with the orbiting complex at 7:58 p.m. EDT (11:58 p.m. UTC). If all goes to schedule, they’ll pop the hatch open at 10:40 p.m. EDT (2:40 a.m. UTC). Meanwhile, engineers are trying to figure out what caused the malfunction that prevented a docking as planned on Tuesday (March 25).

Remember that all schedules are subject to change, so tune into NASA TV well before each event happens.

The Expedition 39/40 crew lifted off Tuesday afternoon (EDT) from Kazakhstan to take a fast track to the space station that should have seen them dock on launch day. The Soyuz has to make three engine firings or burns to accomplish this. The docking was cancelled after the third burn did not happen as planned. The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has determined this was because the spacecraft was in the wrong orientation, but the underlying cause is still being investigated.

Once this happened, the crew switched to a standard backup procedure to bring them to the station in two days instead. (This path, in fact, was what all crews did up until last year.) The crew is safe and in good spirits heading up to the docking, NASA has said. The Soyuz has done several other engine firings since, with no incident.

The Soyuz crew includes Steve Swanson (NASA), Alexander Skvortsov (Roscosmos) and Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos). Awaiting them on the station are Koichi Wakata (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency),  Rick Mastracchio (NASA) and Mikhail Tyurin (Roscosmos). Wakata is in command of the station, marking a first for Japan’s astronaut corps.

Astronauts ‘In Good Shape’ As They Face Space Station Docking Delay

Despite a problem that held up last night’s International Space Station docking, the Expedition 39/40 crew is doing well as they execute a standard backup procedure to bring their Soyuz spacecraft to the station on Thursday, NASA said.

The crew was originally expected to dock with the station around 11 p.m. EDT (3 a.m. UTC), but an error with the spacecraft’s position in space prevented the engines from doing a third planned “burn” or firing to make that possible, NASA said in an update.

“At this point, the crew is in good shape and the vehicle appears to be in good shape,” said Kenny Todd, the space station’s operations integration manager, in an interview on NASA TV Wednesday morning (EDT). “At this point, everything looks real good.”

In fact, the spacecraft has done a couple of burns since to get it into the right spot for a docking Thursday evening, Todd added. (So it appears the crew just missed the window to get there on Tuesday night.) The underlying cause of the orientation problem was not mentioned in the interview, presumably because it’s still being investigated.

NASA is quite familiar with a two-day route to the space station as up until last year, all crews took two days to get to the space station. This took place for 14 years until a rapider method of reaching the orbiting complex within hours was introduced.

The crew includes  Steve Swanson (NASA), Alexander Skvortsov (Roscosmos) and Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos), who will join three people already on station when they arrive.

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata plays around wiith humanoid robot Robonaut 2 during Expedition 39 in March 2014. Credit: NASA
Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata plays around wiith humanoid robot Robonaut 2 during Expedition 39 in March 2014. Credit: NASA

Current station residents Koichi Wakata (the commander, of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency),  Rick Mastracchio (NASA) and Mikhail Tyurin (Roscosmos) got to sleep in this morning and had some minor modifications to their schedule because of the docking delay, Todd added.

Instead of taking the day off as planned, the crew will do some work. A planned ISS software update for last night is going to be pushed “down the line”, Todd said, adding that the forthcoming SpaceX launch on Sunday and docking on Tuesday is still going ahead as planned.

We’ll provide more updates as the situation progresses. Docking is scheduled for 7:58 p.m. EDT (11:58 p.m. UTC) Thursday and will be covered on NASA Television.

UPDATE 2: Crew’s Space Station Docking Delayed Two Days Due To Glitch

Update, 10:13 p.m. EDT: Tonight’s docking with the International Space Station will not happen because one of the engine firings scheduled to happen did not take place when it was supposed to. The crew is safe, according to NASA, and going to a standard backup plan that should bring the craft to the station on Thursday (2 days from now). Roscosmos is examining the issue. We will provide updates as warranted.

Update, 6:43 p.m. EDT: The Soyuz is on its way to space after an on-time launch — and by the way, astronauts saw it leave from the space station! It’s en route and NASA is still expecting an arrival around 11:04 p.m. EDT., which you can watch live on NASA TV above.

Despite tensions on the ground between the United States and Russia, officials say that it’s business as usual on the International Space Station. The three people launching to space today, in fact, are from both countries: Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and Steve Swanson from NASA.

As has been the habit lately, the Expedition 39/40 crew will take a faster route to the International Space Station that see launch and docking happen in the same day, should all go to plan. It all begins with the launch at 5:17 p.m. EDT (9:17 p.m. UTC) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with docking scheduled to happen at 11:04 p.m. EDT (3:04 a.m. UTC).

Bear in mind that schedules are subject to change, so it’s a good idea to watch NASA TV (see video above) well before each milestone to see if things are happening on time. Once the crew arrives at station, one big question is if they’ll do spacewalks when they get there.

Last July, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano experienced a severe water leak in his NASA spacesuit that sent the crew scrambling back to the station. While Parmitano emerged physically all right, the agency opened an investigation and suspended all non-essential activities. A report was issued in February and the agency pledged to deal with all the urgent items quickly.

Spacewalks are planned for Expedition 40, but only if these urgent items are cleared in time for that. (That expedition begins in May and will include NASA astronauts Alex Gerst, Reid Wiseman and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev.)

Seen From Space! Crew’s Rocket Launch Spotted By NASA Astronaut In Orbit

Seriously, how cool is this picture? The International Space Station crew caught an incredible view of their three future crewmates rocketing up to meet them today around 5:17 p.m. EDT (9:17 p.m. UTC).

Expedition 39’s Rick Mastracchio (from NASA) shared this on Twitter, casually mentioning that he will expect more crewmates to arrive later today. Upon the rocket were Steve Swanson (NASA), Alexander Skvortsov (Roscosmos) and Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos).

Check out the launch video and some NASA pictures of the activities below the jump. (Update, 10:21 p.m. EDT: One of the engine firings did not take place as planned, meaning the astronauts will not dock with the station as planned tonight. The crew is safe and doing a standard backup plan that will bring them to the station on Thursday. We will provide updates as the situation progresses.)